Exit signs and firefighting systems have become mandatory after a fire at the Triangle Shirtwist factory in New York City. The 1933 Long Beach earthquake triggered an overhaul of building codes for public schools in California. Regulations on the construction and operation of nuclear power plants were strengthened after the 1979 Three Mile Island accident.
What will be the long-term effects of Covid-19 on workplace safety?
Poppy, the maker of the biosafety intelligence system, is betting that it will increase the susceptibility to airborne pathogens and reduce the incidence of diseases caused by poor indoor air quality.
“The epidemic has made it clear that the world was unaware and unaware of all possible infections,” said Sam Molineux, co-founder and co-CEO of Poppy. “Since we have returned the masking, screening, testing, ventilation is the last stand to ensure that the infection does not spread.”
Building operators have thrown open windows and doors to prevent airborne spread of the covid virus. Still, Molinux says many are adopting a sledgehammer approach to the process.
Improving airflow while increasing heating costs and fossil fuel costs may actually have little effect on infection.
Even very careful companies make mistakes, he said. “We see extra ventilation in many offices that use ultraviolet radiation and air purifiers but there are still hot spots,” he said.
In fact, reducing the amount of outside air and channeling it properly is often the best solution.
Elizabeth Callie, co-founder and co-CEO of Poppy, explained that viruses do not adhere to airflow patterns. “If it were easier, opening the window would make a difference,” he said, “but the viruses pool in the air in places you don’t expect. They can go under the door and into the corner. It’s incredibly mobile.”
Poppy recommends that building operators use a combination of purifiers, strategic ventilation and irradiation to improve air quality, but only after first consulting with HVAC contractors.
“Most people don’t know how to implement these changes effectively,” Molinux said. “Your HVAC providers specialize in these questions.”
Protect the workplace
Physical safety giant ADT Inc. Security has seen a decline in consumer interest in cameras as Covid has increased the need for greater vigilance in the workplace.
Low-cost, network-enabled smart cameras and advanced image recognition software are driving the trend.
“Small businesses have done a good job of securing their storefronts, but now they want to secure their trucks as well,” said Raya Sevilla, ADT’s chief technology officer.
Businesses are increasingly sensitive to creating materials in every corner of the workplace for security purposes and to ensure optimal occupant density.
“You can use the camera to look for contacts, whether the space is empty or overcrowded,” says Sevilla. “You can also use that technology for recovery, such as detecting if someone has fallen.”
Aware of privacy concerns, ADT is investing in radar technology that can scan workplaces without identifying individuals. It also works on technologies that sense exceptions, such as an employee failing to swipe a badge at the expected time.
A healthy future?
One of COVID’s long-term legacies may be a safer workplace, fewer days lost due to illness, and more focus on the well-being of their people by business.
“We realized we were living in a home with a lot of diseases we weren’t aware of,” said Poppy’s Molinix. “The power to control them is entirely within our reach.”
Cali cites the example of the norovirus, a highly contagious gastrointestinal disorder that kills about 50,000 children worldwide each year (I got it, and I hope you never).
Early precautions such as hand washing, optimal protection of food and surfaces, and awareness created in COVID about the importance of such routines could ultimately save thousands of lives and millions of workdays.
Experience can even put an end to the tactical attitude that coming to work in a sick condition is not really what it is but a sign of devotion: a threat.
Attitudes toward such things usually change slowly, but the epidemic has added some urgency to the process. “What if you’re not sick? What if you’re not injured? The benefits come back with a spade,” Nico Prank, chief science offerer at Health Partners Inc., told the Harvard School of Public Health.
“You can’t be successful if you don’t have healthy staff, but that recognition is still very rare.”
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